Here you are, minding your own business watching the TV with the heating on full blast and the tumble dryer going, when an envelope from your energy supplier drops through the letter box. The winter months have cost you dearly; next year’s bill will be going up – again…
The annual annoyance bursts that cosy bubble.
But with the average yearly gas and electricity bills in the UK just shy of £700 each, this is just a drop in the ocean for South Yorkshire’s largest property.
When your next utility bill comes through, spare a thought for Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust whose annual gas and electricity bills are over £40,000 a year.
Granted, the stately home is slightly bigger than the average three-bed semi. But added to this the annual water rate of £4,800, £5,500 for broadband and £50,000 for buildings insurance, it would be fair to say the running of our celebrated Wentworth Woodhouse doesn’t come cheap.
This astronomical expenditure is just the tip of the iceberg. As part of their on-going restorations, the predicted costs of immediate works needed to overhaul vital components of the house are racking up into the hundreds of thousands.
The house is at risk of serious water damage if the heavily corroded pipework and valves are not replaced at the eye-watering cost of £35,000. The 100-year-old central heating system has not been serviced in decades and is in dire need of a £75,000 refurbishment.
The cellars are riddled with asbestos and are currently out of bounds, leaving them prone to dry rot and water damage – but to remove the asbestos throughout the house will cost £80,000.
Outside, the guttering needs a £53,600 trace-heating system fitted to reduce damage and protect the exterior throughout the winter.
And that’s before any work can be done on the decorative side of things to improve the visitor experience.
But, as trustee, Dame Julie Kenny, says, nothing is impossible.
While the projected restoration costs would be unachievable to the average person, collectively, we could all do our bit to help reduce the risk of Wentworth Woodhouse crumbling into the history books.
After decades of neglect, substantial efforts are now being made by the Trust to preserve it on our social landscape for future generations to admire; but they can’t do it alone.
The Trust has recently launched a Wishlist featuring 50 different items urgently needed. While there are many sizeable expenses, such as a new £100,000 water pipe running from Cortworth Lane, there are also lots of practical items needed for the day-to-day running of the house including step ladders, PAT testing equipment and a minibus for transporting visitors and volunteers.
With one room for every day of the year, it is no surprise that cleaning equipment is on the list for the mammoth housekeeping task. Could you help by gifting a new vacuum cleaner or even a mop and bucket?
One of the more extensive and painstaking cleaning projects is to bring the 250-year-old chandelier in the Van Dyck Room back to life at a cost of £6,000.
With 83-acres of grounds surrounding the house, the gardening team work constantly throughout the year to keep the gardens and green areas looking pristine. They have recently been gifted £1,500 worth of tools from Spear and Jackson but are still in need of a stihl chainsaw to cut logs which they can then sell to add to the fundraising pot.
Around 150 herbaceous plants are needed to titivate the gardens and the team would like a polytunnel in which to grow plants and cuttings. A ride on-mower, priced at around £1,500, would also make keeping the large front lawn and grassed areas around the estate cut a lot easier.
Visitor safety is paramount to the Trust and they are keen to install £20,000 of tower lighting for the public car park as well as 15 £1,000 security cameras throughout the house and pedestrian gates across the cattle grids.
At almost 300 years old, many of Wentworth Woodhouse’s original features for which it is famed need some TLC.
The Stable Block clock stopped working decades ago and will cost around £70,000 to start ticking again. At the red baroque West Front, the ornate step railings need specialist restoration to the tune of £76,500. While the North Pavilion weathervane will cost £30,600 to restore and the trust are researching for funders due to the expense.
Topping off the decorative works is the restoration of 56 Georgian urns and statues, each costing £8,750.
When you see it in black and white, the financial investment needed to keep Wentworth Woodhouse alive is phenomenal and a real eye-opener into the Trust’s exponential task that lies ahead.
But the man who doesn’t give up can move mountains.
If you are a business or individual who would like to donate to the Wishlist, you can contact marketing manager, Shane Spence, for the full brochure with donation form attached.